Bolivia launched the BOL-110 Integrated System for Citizen Security in August 2019. Six hundred facial recognition cameras were added to the more than 2,000 surveillance units already installed in the streets, in addition to patrols, and drones. Bolivian authorities will also use high-tech communications equipment to counter crime and obtain information about the population.
In its first phase, the BOL-110 system will be in service around the clock daily in the municipalities of La Paz and El Alto. The program anticipates that the system will be active in every police command nationwide by the end of 2019, to coordinate operations in real time using a codified communications system. “For the second phase, the government intends to acquire an additional 840 security cameras that will enable vehicle license plate verification,” Bolivian Vice Minister of Citizen Security Wilfredo Chávez told Radio Comunidad Bolivia.
The system’s installation required the construction of the Command and Control National Center in La Paz. The China National Electronics Service Company Limited developed the project worth more than $105 million, said Bolivian newspaper Opinión.
“We are implementing artificial intelligence to counter crime,” Bolivian President Evo Morales told the press at the inauguration of BOL-110.
Facial recognition and digital surveillance might enable access to personal and confidential data, such as social media activity, photos and videos, addresses of places frequently visited, including users’ homes, medical records, political affiliations, and bank accounts, among others, said Colombian magazine Semana on April 5. “This information can help authorities control dissidents and obtain people’s information secretly,” Daniel Pou, researcher at the Latin American Social Sciences Institute in the Dominican Republic, told Diálogo.
“The goal of these systems is to have control, even if people feel harassed and observed. That’s what it’s all about, being in control,” Cesar Ortiz Anderson, head of the Peruvian Pro-Citizen Security Association, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that guides communities in preventive security, told Diálogo. “The authorities can use these tools for repression, just like they do in China and other authoritarian countries.”
“BOL-110 will turn Bolivia into the safest country on the continent,” Bolivian Government Minister Carlos Romero told the press. However, the report The Rise of Digital Authoritarianism, issued by U.S.-based NGO Freedom House, says that some countries are moving toward digital authoritarianism, as they adopt the Chinese model of extensive censorship and automated surveillance systems.
In addition, Chinese companies that provide facial recognition technology and tools for data analysis to various governments will be able to use that information to Beijing’s advantage, the report says.